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Chronic cannabis use is associated with altered monocyte phenotype, immune response, and depression in physically active individuals

Publication: Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology
31 March 2023


Introduction: This study evaluated depression, monocyte phenotype, and immune function in physically active cannabis users. Methods: Participants (N = 23) were classified as either cannabis users (CU, n = 11) or non-users (NU, n = 12). White blood cells isolated from blood were analyzed for co-expression of cluster of differentiation 14 and 16 using flow cytometry. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was cultured with whole blood and assessed for interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) release. Results: The percentage of white blood cells classified as monocytes was not different between groups; however, CU had a significantly greater percentage of monocytes classified as intermediate (p = 0.02). When standardized per milliliter of blood, CU had significantly greater numbers of total monocytes (p = 0.01), classical monocytes (p = 0.02), and intermediate monocytes (p = 0.01). Intermediate monocytes per milliliter of blood were positively correlated to the number of times CU used cannabis per day (r = 0.864, p < 0.01) and Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) score (r = 0.475, p = 0.03), which was significantly greater in CU (5.1 ± 4.8) compared with NU (0.8 ± 1.0; p < 0.01). CU released significantly less TNF-α per monocyte in response to LPS. Conclusions: CU had altered monocyte phenotypes and functions compared with NU. Elevations in intermediate monocytes were positively correlated with measures of cannabis use and BDI-II score.

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Information & Authors


Published In

cover image Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology
Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology
Volume 101Number 6June 2023
Pages: 316 - 326


Received: 7 October 2022
Accepted: 20 January 2023
Accepted manuscript online: 3 March 2023
Version of record online: 31 March 2023

Data Availability Statement

Data generated or analyzed during this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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Key Words

  1. marijuana
  2. immune function
  3. innate immunity
  4. inflammation
  5. depression



Jonathon K. Lisano
Department of Kinesiology, Nutrition, and Dietetics, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO, USA
Author Contributions: Conceptualization, Data curation, Formal analysis, Investigation, Project administration, Visualization, and Writing – original draft.
Jacob Kisiolek
Department of Kinesiology, Nutrition, and Dietetics, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO, USA
Author Contributions: Data curation, Investigation, Methodology, and Writing – review & editing.
Victoria Flores
Department of Kinesiology, Nutrition, and Dietetics, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO, USA
Author Contributions: Data curation, Methodology, and Writing – review & editing.
Peter Smoak
Department of Kinesiology, Nutrition, and Dietetics, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO, USA
Author Contributions: Conceptualization, Project administration, and Writing – review & editing.
Nicholas A. Pullen
School of Biological Sciences, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO, USA
Author Contributions: Formal analysis, Methodology, Supervision, and Writing – review & editing.
Laura K. Stewart [email protected]
Department of Kinesiology, Nutrition, and Dietetics, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO, USA
Author Contributions: Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Funding acquisition, Investigation, Methodology, Resources, Supervision, Writing – original draft, and Writing – review & editing.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization: JKL, PS, LKS
Data curation: JKL, JK, VF
Formal analysis: JKL, NAP, LKS
Funding acquisition: LKS
Investigation: JKL, JK, LKS
Methodology: JK, VF, NAP, LKS
Project administration: JKL, PS
Resources: LKS
Supervision: NAP, LKS
Visualization: JKL
Writing – original draft: JKL, LKS
Writing – review & editing: JK, VF, PS, NAP, LKS

Competing Interests

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

Funding Information

Funding for this project was provided by the University of Northern Colorado's New Projects Program grant as well as the university's Graduate Student Association Grant program. Support was also provided by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the ACSM's Student Research Grant.

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